Ok, so you've decided to get an AR Drone! Congratulations and good flying…
BUT, before you take off with that machine, here is some advice which may help your drone last much longer. It's a simple modification called the zip tie mod. You'll find many examples of it by searching the web for “AR Drone zip tie mod”, but let me simplify this for you.
The AR Drone comes with feet which look like this:
Note that the AR Drone feet are hard plastic and also contain a number of sensitive parts, including the motor and a circuit board. A hard landing, which you will have MANY of, will eventually damage some of these components or even break the AR Drone cross frame. You can purchase custom foam landing covers on eBay, but IMHO the zip tie or similar mod will work better due to the better “give” of the material on a hard landing.
The mod is done using fairly long (cable) ties – start with some which have a length of at least 12″ or more and cut to size. Try not to use very heavy ones, as thinner ties add less weight to your quad and also will function a bit better as shock absorbers. With kudos to some who have come before me, here is a pic from parrot forum users Candu1 and UFO Doctor, who made these mods years ago and actually tested them scientifically!
OK, so the basic steps are:
1. Obtain cable ties and electrical tape.
2. Put tie around bottom of landing feet and pull tight.
3. Place end of tie (it may help to cut a point onto it) so it enters the hull right where the cross arm does – only insert in a small amount (1/2″ or less).
4. Wrap a small piece of electrical tape around the zip tie and crossarm to hold the tie to the arm.
Since the devil is always in the details, let me remind you of some issues….
1. Make sure the quad is perfectly level after installing these! Set it on a known flat surface and measure from the ground to the original landing feet. If you don't do this right, your quad will be incorrectly calibrated when it boots up!
2. Don't use too much tape – in fact, I might suggest cutting the tape in 1/2 lengthwise in order to save weight. If the tape breaks on a hard landing, that generally means it helped in shock absorbing – and it's cheap enough to replace!
3. Some folks use small zip ties instead of, or in addition to, the electrical tape.
Once your AR Drone has this modification, it will be superior in just about every way – it will be able to land and take off in taller grass and on rougher surfaces also! The one caveat is that, if you tend to get your AR Drone stuck in trees often, that the zip legs can get hooked on branches and make it harder to recover. This is yet another reason for not using too much tape to secure the tie to the cross arms!
A basic video of this modification is shown below.
Note – below are the Amazon links for the AR Drone and some popular replacement parts, batteries,etc.